Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Conciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • A Beholder and a Hydra

    Posted By on April 15, 2014

    The A Team versus a Hydra

    The A Team versus a Hydra

    I finished these some time back but didn’t post any pictures.  These are Bones figures.

    Dorothy and the Gang versus a Beholder

    Dorothy and the Gang versus a Beholder

     

    Thinking About Vehicles without Turrets

    Posted By on April 13, 2014

    The other day, when we played the vehicle-only game, I started thinking about how to handle vehicles without turrets.  I wanted to avoid modifiers to the cards.  I had a “rule” that said that turret hits on vehicles without turrets were hull hits.  But I thought that didn’t take into account the lower profile of these vehicles.  So I changed to rule to say that hits on turrets were misses.  That didn’t seem to account for the fact that these vehicles couldn’t really go “hull down.”  It seems to me that an even greater portion of these vehicles is exposed in order for the gun to be able to fire, since the body of the vehicle is typically wider than a turret.

        In G.A.M.E.R. there really isn’t the same notion of “hull down” as in other rules.  If the part of the vehicle hit is behind cover, such as a wall or hill crest, the vehicle is protected — just like for infantry.  I’m thinking about using laser pointers, because in G.A.M.E.R., the terrain is its actual height on the table.  (In other games terrain is often some abstract elevation.)  So if the laser is blocked by something between the shooter and the hit location on the vehicle, the vehicle is protected.

        This is the long way around saying that I don’t want to add any modifiers, but I want to account for the unique characteristics of these vehicles.  What I’ve decided to do is color the hull section yellow on half the cards that indicate a turret hit.  If you draw one of these cards with the yellow, a turret hit is converted to a hull hit.  If you draw one of the other cards (with no yellow), the turret hit is a miss.

    Sample Card

    Sample Card

    Before I make a final decision, I want to try this out in another vehicle-only game.

    Screaming Eagles

    Posted By on April 6, 2014

    The American Screaming Eagle Squadron

    The American Screaming Eagle Squadron

    I finally finished my American WWII infantry riding on giant American eagles.  In an earlier post I mentioned how I was able to get Major Objective painting service to mold and paint the riders for me.  The eagles were collected from flea markets over the past few years.

    Nazis on Pterodactyls Against the Screaming Eagles

    Nazis on Pterodactyls Against the Screaming Eagles

    All of this effort was to have opponents for my Eureka Nazis.

    The American Screaming Eagle Squadron

    The American Screaming Eagle Squadron

    The delay in finishing this project was bases.  I ran out of Games Workshop flight stands.  It turns out that none of the hobby stores in the area had any in stock.  I was going to mount them on the round, wooden bases you see in the picture above.  I get these from a guy at Historicon who sells as many wooden bases as you can stuff in a Chinese takeout container for a fixed price.  All I really wanted was the clear plastic rods.  So, I ordered a ten-pack of plastic rods from Tower Hobbies.  They arrived in three days, and I finished this project this weekend.  I think they look pretty cool.

    Rating Vehicles in G.A.M.E.R.

    Posted By on April 5, 2014

    Since the vehicle test went relatively well last week, I’ve been thinking about how to develop the armor and penetration numbers for the vehicles.  Here’s my thinking:

     

    Information on armor in various parts of a vehicle can be gathered on the internet and other sources.  As this isn’t meant to be a published project, I will just do this for a handful of vehicles.  Then anyone who wants to stat up another vehicle can do so, using the formulas.  Sometimes what is reported is just the front hull.  Other times what is reported is a range (e.g., the armor on the Panther varied between 10mm and 120mm), leaving the reader to guess that 10mm was the rear hull, the turret and side armor were in the middle somewhere (about 50 – 55mm), etc.

    Armor:

    To compute the armor number in G.A.M.E.R., take mm or armor, round up to nearest 10, divide by 10, and add 4.  As an example, the frontal armor on a M4E8 “Easy Eight” was about 178mm, making it one of the heaviest armored vehicle fronts of the war.  A standard M4 (earliest model) was about 75mm.  Different Sherman versions varied between these two extremes.  Let’s start with the Easy Eight.  The frontal hull armor would be 178 -> 180, 180 /10 = 18, 18 + 4 = 22.  Using the same formula, the M4 would be 12.

     

    Now that result is just a meaningless number until you look at penetration.

    Penetration:

    (Just for reference, rifles have a penetration of 1 and pistols 0.)

     

    At short, medium, and long ranges, take the book value for penetration, round up to the nearest 10 and divide by 10.  As an example, the 88mm KwK 36 L/56, depending on ammunition used, had a penetration of about 120mm at 500m.  So 120 / 10 = 12.  Another example:  An ATR at short range had a penetration of about 35mm.  That would be 35 -> 40 /10 = 4.

    Putting it together:

    An early Tiger with an 88mm KwK 36 L/56 gun hits the front of an M4 Sherman.  The Tiger rolls d10 and adds the penetration of 12.  Let’s say he rolls a 5, that is a result of 17.  17 is greater than the 12 armor on the front of the M4, so the hit penetrates.  If he had rolled a 1, that would automatically be a “bounce.”

    That same Tiger with the same roll of 5 would NOT penetrate the front of the Easy Eight.  In fact, the 88mm KwK 36 L/56 would need to hit the side or turret to penetrate, as the front of the Easy Eight is just too thick.

     

    The ATR fired at the Sherman would have a penetration of 43.  If the player rolled an 8 for penetration, that would give a result of 12 compared to an armor of 12, which would indicate no penetration.

     

    Yes, I know that not all armor is created equal, but it’s a good enough approximation for what is meant to be a fun skirmish game.  Of course people could fiddle with the stats to handicap their favorite vehicle.

    With these formulas, anyone using the rules can quickly create the stats for their vehicles and get playing.  And I don’t have to spend the next two years doing it myself and then listening to people complain about the stats I gave their favorite vehicles.  If it was known that a particular vehicle had a weak area, the results of the formulas can be modified to suit the players’ perceptions.

     

    The next step is to build the formulas to determine the movement speed in the game based on the real tank’s quoted stats.

     

    I’ve also added another attribute to vehicles.  It is the maximum number of elevations that a vehicle can go UP in a single activation.  I was reading somewhere recently that the Germans were constantly surprised at the climbing ability of the Sherman.  (Of course it was a medium tank, not one of heavy tank like self-loathing American and Brits with axe to grind like to compare with the Sherman.)  So the Sherman might have a max climb of 2, while most other tanks might be a 1.  Or perhaps those numbers are 3 and 2.  I’m still working on it, but if you think about this simple mechanic, I think you’ll see how elegant it is.

    Last Days of the First Empire Scenario Book

    Posted By on April 5, 2014

    Announcing the upcoming release of this exciting new scenario book for war gamers.  

    Napoleon’s 1814 campaign is little known, often treated as a footnote between Leipzig and the Hundred Days.  Many Napoleonic gamers have read that Napoleon demonstrated his old genius but was overwhelmed by numbers.  The research Dave Wood did on this scenario book allow you to experience these battles yourself.  Players will find that the situations presented are interesting and fun.  Last Days of the First Empire brings you 12 historical scenarios from this interesting campaign.

    The battles can be played separately or linked to play the entire campaign.

    Although the book was written with Fate of Battle: Look, Sarge, No Charts: Napoleonic Wars in mind, the scenarios are written to enable players to use any set of Napoleonic rules.

    Last Days of the First Empire will be published by On Military Matters in the near future.

    Bear Yourselves Valiantly Driving Toward Completion

    Posted By on April 5, 2014

    The team that brought you other popular titles in the Look, Sarge, No Charts family of rules (Surdu, Wood, and Palmer) are working toward a Summer release of this new title.  The book will be published by On Military Matters.

    We have teamed with Magister Militum to and their upcoming release of a terrific line of 10mm fantasy figures to go along with their existing ancient line of figures.

    For more information, check out our Web page.

     

    (Almost) All Vehicle Play Test of G.A.M.E.R.

    Posted By on March 29, 2014

    Last night at the club meeting, I ran another play test of G.A.M.E.R. (which stands for the attributes of a figure in the game: Guts, Accuracy, Melee, Endurance, and Reaction).  I have been pretty happy with the way the infantry rules are working, but I have been needing to give the vehicle rules a good workout.  Last night I ran a game that was almost entirely vehicles.  It wasn’t a particularly realistic scenario, but it served its purpose.  I also wasn’t very accurate on vehicle mixes, as the scenario included some late-war tanks, even though the scenario was set in Poland in 1939.

    Polish infantry and an anti-tank rifle attack a German 38(t)

    Polish infantry and an anti-tank rifle attack a German 38(t)

    A column of German tanks was assigned the task of pushing across the board.  They were supported by two tank-killer infantry teams, one with a panzerfaust and the other with a panzerschreck (recall that historical accuracy was not part of this event’s objective).  The Poles had two 7TPjw tanks, two Vickers E tanks, two TKs tankettes, an anti-tank gun, and an infantry team with an anti-tank rifle.

    Another shot from the German perspective

    Another shot from the German perspective

    The game began badly for the Germans, with a Hetzer and a Marder getting knocked out by the two tanks on the far hill in the picture (above).  After a while it evened out and was considered a marginal German victory, since they still had two “real” tanks left at the end, and the Poles only had one.

    A shot from the German end of the table

    A shot from the German end of the table

    As the objective was to give the vehicle rules a workout, I was glad to see Bill use anti-tank rifle grenades (again, not necessarily historically accurate) and a satchel charge against Chris’ 38(t).  I don’t think he ever knocked out this tank, but he immobilized it early.  The tank-on-tank action in the center of the table between Geoff and Sam (Germans) and Duncan (Poles) seemed to have about the right feel.  Duncan’s Polish AT gun had ammunition trouble or something, because it kept jamming.

    Recall from previous posts that G.A.M.E.R. is designed to be played at three levels of “detail” or “resolution,” at the GM’s or players’ choice:

    • Low Resolution: All infantry figures in a unit have the same G.A.M.E.R. attributes.  Wounds are all the same.  Wounds are tracked with markers on the table.  Vehicle crews aren’t tracked; if a vehicle is destroyed, all crew are killed.  If the vehicle is not destroyed, there is no effect on the crewmen.
    • Medium Resolution:  All infantry figures in a unit have the same G.A.M.E.R. attributes.  Wounds are tracked on the record sheet.  Upper body wounds effect fire.  Lower body wounds effect movement.  Vehicle crews aren’t tracked; if a vehicle is destroyed, all crew are killed.  If the vehicle is not destroyed, there is no effect on the crewmen.
    • High Resolution:  Each infantry figure has its own G.A.M.E.R. attributes.  Wounds are tracked on the record sheet.  Upper body wounds effect fire.  Lower body wounds effect movement.  Vehicle crewmen ARE tracked (at one of three levels of resolution, GM’s preference).  If a vehicle is hit, card flips are used to determine impact on individual crewmen.

    Last night, I wanted to test the crew casualty resolution, so we played played at high resolution for vehicles and low resolution for infantry.  My preference will be to play with low or medium resolution on most cases, I think.  The extra steps required to determine which crewmen are wounded or killed as a result of a hit is usually not worth the effort.  But we tested it last night, and it worked fine.  I can see a lot of WWII gamers wanting the higher resolution.  It was fun to see that the gunner was wounded or the driver was killed and see the impact on the rest of the game.

    We also tried the bog check rule (see previous post).  Woods and plowed field are considered “green,” pun intended.  When a tank moves through woods or plowed fields, it flips a card to resolve the “green” attack on it.  If the terrain succeeds in hitting the vehicle, the vehicle bogs down.  I was worried that this would be so frequent that players would get frustrated or so infrequent that players would forget to do it.  I think it was about right, but I’ll have to try it a few more times before I decide.  Rougher terrain might be considered regular or elite for bog attacks on the vehicle.  (This is how I plan to handle mine field as well.)  We had a TKs that bogged for three turns, and a German tank bogged down in the woods.

    Part of the objective last night was to test the vehicle hit resolution procedure.  Geoff said that he had trouble remembering the sequence.  Most of the other folks who had played the infantry rules seemed to have picked it up quickly, but clearly G.A.M.E.R. is a paradigm that is different from what players expect.

    I had a draft vehicle record card for last night’s game.  As a result of the play test, I revised the card.  Below is what I think it will look like.  When printed in full size, this looks like three 3″x5″ cards.  I think that experienced players will only need the one on the top left.  They will eventually learn the hit resolution procedure and the effects of a penetrating hit and won’t need the card, so I think that in a practical sense, a player will only need the single card.  At high resolution, the players will also need a second 3×5 card with the crew information.

    I can see players printing this, cutting it into an L and then folding it to be a single 3×5 card.  On the hit resolution procedure card, I tried to show cards next to steps in which you draw a card, and a die next to the step where you roll a die.  (There is a d10 on the cards, so you could use a card and read the result instead of rolling a die if you want.)  The only “trick” on vehicle hit resolution is that you have to keep track of the hit location card, because if you don’t get a penetrating hit, the non-penetrating results are read from THAT card.  You don’t draw a different one.

    As a reminder, here is what the infantry (or crew) card looks like:

    I think it went pretty well last night, and the players enjoyed the game.  Sammy thinks that she likes it without vehicles better.  I need to come up with good stats for the vehicles I have in my collection, which I’m not looking forward to doing.  I’ll keep plugging away at it.  I think this game has potential.

    114th Signal Battalion Officer Professional Development

    Posted By on March 29, 2014

    A view of the WWII game

    A view of the WWII game

    For the sixth year in a row the HAWKs supported an officer professional development event for the 114th Signal Battalion.  The first year, the event just included the officers, so we ran just a single game.  Over time, more and more of the battalion’s leadership have been corralled into the event.  This year we had almost 40 officers, senior NCOs, and civilian staff of the battalion.

    Another view of the WWII game

    Another view of the WWII game

    Last year we had a similar number of players and tried to get them into a single game.  It worked out okay, but there were a number of players who were in reserve and didn’t get to see much action.  This year we divided the training audience into three groups and ran the same battle on three tables — with a twist.  The scenario we chose was the Battle of Laon, 1814, from the Napoleonic Wars.  This is from our soon-to-be-released scenario book on that campaign.  On one table we ran the game historically, as a Napoleonic battle.  On the second table, we ran it as an American Civil War Battle, with the Rebs taking the role of the French.  On the third table, we ran it as a France 1940 WWII battle, with the French taking the role of the — French.

    A view of the Napoleonic game

    A view of the Napoleonic game

    Dave Wood and I ran the Napoleonic game.  Eric Schlegel and Chris Palmer ran the ACW game.  Sammy ran the WWII game.  He was going to be assisted by Ed Duffy, but we had some overflow folks, so Ed ran a modern skirmish game for a few extra players with the rules he has been developing.  (I haven’t had a chance to play this yet, but it is getting rave reviews from those who have!)  The three “main” battles all used variants of Look, Sarge, No Charts.

    Many of the players did not realize until the battles were over that they were fighting the same battle on each table.

    A view of the ACW battle

    A view of the ACW battle

    After the games ended, I facilitate an after action review with the staff.  It was interesting to compare the various plans and schemes of maneuver across the tables and then to discuss how the battle developed and differed from the plan.  I tried to point out some tactical lessons, because some day, these folks might need to use these skills on a real battlefield.

    I think the event was both fun and interesting.  Thanks to Sam Fuson for inviting us and to the other HAWKs for supporting the event.

     

    The Eagles Have Landed

    Posted By on March 24, 2014

    A rifleman on a bald eagle

    A rifleman on a bald eagle

    I have been trying to talk Eureka into creating fantastic aerial forces for the other countries to match their Germans riding pterodactyls, but they have not been interested.  I had suggested Russians on giant vultures, Americans on eagles, and Brits on owls.  Since Eureka wasn’t interested, I took matters into my own hands.

    Eleven eagles waiting to be based

    Eleven eagles waiting to be based

    For two years I’ve been looking for Games Workshop eagles in flea markets.  They cost about $10 each from the manufacturer, but in most cases I was able to get these for a dollar or two.  Actually, my buddy Don found most of them for me over the past couple years in convention flea markets.  After collecting eagles to long, I needed to shift my attention to riders.  At Fall In 2013 I met someone from a painting service, called Major Objective.  I don’t usually commission painted figures, but between Fall In and Cold Wars, the owner bought plastic figures, modified them heavily, made a mold of the resultant figure, made fifteen of them, and painted them — all for a reasonable price.  I think he did a terrific job, and I’d certainly use Major Objective again!

    Another rifleman on an eagle

    Another rifleman on an eagle

    This weekend I was pretty busy with family activities but Sunday afternoon I painted the 11 eagles, since I picked up the riders a few weeks ago at the convention.  In the above picture you can see an example.  I don’t have flight stands for all of them yet, but I plan to hit the hobby store in the next few days.  Then I’ll take pictures of the whole wing and post them.  I plan to use these and the Eureka figures in either GASLIGHT and/or using the X-Wing game and creating stats for the Americans and Germans.

    Dr. Who Gets Wheels

    Posted By on March 24, 2014

    Both readers of this blog will recall that my favorite Dr. Who incarnation was the third doctor, John Pertwee.  It was the third doctor who first used Bessie.

    The Doctor and Elizabeth Shaw in Bessie

    The Doctor and Elizabeth Shaw in Bessie

    I found a similar car in the flea market at Cold Wars and painted it up to be Bessie.  Except for the lack of a back seat, it is pretty close.

    A view of my Bessie

    A view of my Bessie

    Another view of Bessie

    Another view of Bessie

    I’m not sure when this will first see action, but hopefully it won’t be long.